Another Word for Practice

E. has slept in a half-reclining position on the couch for 3 nights now. I am grateful I got a flu shot this winter. Though I’m honestly a little resentful that he can nap during the day.

I also use it as an excuse to feign frustration over not being able to do morning yoga in the living room – ignoring the fact that there is plenty of room in the house to accommodate Warrior 3.

Yeah, I am not doing as well as I would like in terms of my compassion meditation and practice. I’m not doing all that well in terms of my – what? – serenity practice?

Lately I have been getting stuck on words like “practice” when they pop up in my mind. I’m looking for a way to make all the blah blah rhetoric mean something to me personally, when I keep having knee-jerk responses to words like practice and journey again and again. It is a bizarre distraction.

I’ve even looked up the word practice and all that I lay into that word isn’t there in the denotation. When I was a kid I would practice the flute. I would spend afternoons (trying to find ways of getting out of) practicing tap dance routines, and plies. Practice in my mind is inherently connected to expectations of improving, mastering: moving towards an eventual performance of some sort. So part of me still bristles at the phrase yoga practice, meditation practice. It is a personal connotation that is absurdly difficult for me to get past. I feel a pressure that there will be a judgement made by someone sometime in the future.

After a few weeks of after school dance lessons, I wasn’t allowed to go with my friends anymore. I didn’t practice enough, my mother said. At 6 or so, I wasn’t showing enough commitment to justify the expense. I kind of get it. Knowing what I know now about the tripwire of sudden poverty and all that. But I took her at her word then. I believed I’d let her down. I wasn’t the kind of person who could work hard enough to be good at something. Not good enough to justify the effort.

My step-father called me chubs and laughed at me when I tripped over my own feet. We take on identities that are difficult to shed – even knowing what we learn over the years about the fallibility of the people who handed them to us.

When I ran in my twenties, I tripped often: an ankle half-turned on every run. In my forties, I swapped the clunky platform runners to run barefoot. I’ve tripped maybe twice in the past decade. I need to be closer to the earth.

The GP yesterday told me she strongly discourages me from having cortisone shots in my shoulders. The pills have triggered me in the past, and can do so in people who don’t even have a bipolar diagnosis. She fears the shots will do the same. This means my shoulders will continue to hurt in most yoga poses and transitions. It means moving into a table top will continue to make my head want to explode. It means that my current “practice” isn’t about improving my performance.

If yoga means to yoke our consciousness to the universal (in a way that releases us from the matter of our consciousness), then maybe this degeneration of my performance is actually fine. Acknowledging that since there never was an apex of mastery, it is fine. Nothing is incomplete or failed.

This Aristotelian curve we crave to find in the telling of our “journeys” is just part of the matter of consciousness. There is no journey. Not for me, anyway. I find the term too weighty with expectations.

I am wandering.

These mornings are about discipline, not practice as I understand it. I think discipline is more difficult because there is no promise – no potential – no performance.

This morning is all about relishing the perceived gap in praxis between a word like discipline and and a word like wandering.

2 Replies to “Another Word for Practice”

  1. Maybe wandering’s the best thing to do – perhaps that way we’ll have no expectations of ourselves or the world. Though what that means for our poets’ constant striving to find meaning in life, I dread to think.


%d bloggers like this: